Day 33 Riopelle de L’Isle

Making cheese takes a lot of milk and a lot of work-which explains the creation of milk and cheese communities and communes as an integral part of the artisinal cheese making story.  A classic example of this is today’s cheese, Riopelle de L’Isle, a bloomy rind cow’s milk cheese from Isle aux Grues, Quebec.  On this small island of only 156 residents 10 dairy makers have pooled their milk to create this modern-day milk co-operative.

Ile-aux-Grues (translation-Goose Island) is one of 21 islands in the St. Lawrence River.  The cows feed on local hay that grows wild on the mud flats of the river. The land is in a natural state and there are no chemicals or pesticides used.This is a relatively new cheese on the scene- it was created in 2002 and named after a renowned Québécois artist, Jean-Paul Riopelle.  Riopelle lived on the Island and loved the people there, and their cheese.  Riopelle agreed to have his artwork and name adorn this cheese (I’m just putting it out there now, that I am totally open to having a cheese named after me too, just in case you were wondering.)  One dollar from each 1.4 kg piece of this cheese sold goes towards a foundation to help with the education of the children of this island.  What other cheese also funds local children’s education and is named after an artist?  This cheese is already cool and I haven’t even tasted it.

I’m glad to be trying a relatively local soft cheese.  These cheeses don’t have a long shelf life and need to be eaten at the peak of their freshness.  If you think about the journey a soft French cheese needs to take to my stomach versus a soft Quebec cheese, there is a lot less jet fuel involved.  Transportation costs of cheese does for the most part explain some of the huge costs associated with buying cheese (just ask my pocket-book)  The soft cheeses and fresh cheeses need to be flown here and they are heavy.  The big hard cheeses make the voyage over the Atlantic in big ships-again, heavy cheese, heavy price, so it is nice to try to stay local if possible .

Riopelle cheese is soft and is not pressed. The whey drains from the curds by using gravity and  turning the cheese regularly. This cheese is aged for only 60 days and is the soft-cheese champion of the 2004 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. It has a bloomy rind a very creamy looking interior of the triple cream cheeses.  I just brought it to my nose and got a strong hit of ammonia-kind of like a yummy cat box…I can’t wait any longer.

Here goes…

Wow, this is freaking fantastic! The texture is unbelievably creamy and oozy, it’s almost eating you as you are eating it-it just melts all over your tongue and teeth rather intimately. The interior of the cheese is very mild, salty and mushroomy-it’s the rind that’s the ammonia kicker-if you don’t enjoy that taste (and who wouldn’t) just avoid the rind, and it’s a totally creamy and luxurious ride.  If you like that little kick in the derriere then eat that rind-actually, as I have another bite I realize the rind tastes like acetone smells, and I actually LOVE the smell of acetone.  My grandfather used to build fibreglass boats, and the rind of this cheese tastes like his boat making shop used to smell, isn’t that weird?  Weird but good.

Riopelle de L’Isle, you get a 5 out of 5, you will definitely end up on my cheese plate in the future.  If you are looking for a super creamy brie type cheese with a strong rind option and a social conscience to boot, go out and get this cheese.